Saturday, July 26, 2008

Question from Ashley - Mourning and funerary customs

Does anyone know of any books on Tudor funerary/mourning customs, or even just Early Modern customs? In particular, I've come across conflicting views on the color yellow. I've read that it was the color of mourning for Spaniards, but the English took it to mean joy and happiness (I'm refering to Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn wearing yellow after Katherine of Aragon's death). Does anyone have any ideas? Thanks in advance!


Anonymous said...

All I know is that the deepest mourning colors are black and purple

kb said...

Except in France where white was the color of mourning in the 16th century.

The best thing to do is search the Royal Historical Society's bibliographic index. Searching for mourning and funerals restricted to 1500 - 1660 gave these results.

The art of death : visual culture in the English death ritual, c.1500-c.1800 / Llewellyn, Nigel. 1991
Death, burial and the individual in early modern England / Gittings, C. 1984
Costume for births, marriages, deaths / Cunnington, Pamela; Lucas, C. 1972

Foose said...

There's apparently a note in Hall's Chronicle that after Anne was beheaded, "on the Ascension day following the king wore white for mourning." It would be interesting if he wore white as a (perhaps sardonic) tribute to Anne's Francophilia, which might also have prompted the French style of her execution (with a swordsman).

Hall is also the source of the statement that at Catherine's death "Queen Anne wore yellow for mourning." Kenneth Pickthorn, in his "Early Tudor Government," says in a note "It is not certain that the bright colour marked a caddish ostention of joy: Henry could hardly wear full mourning for a woman whose wifehood and queenship he had been for years denying. [Note: Wouldn't the same qualifier apply to wearing "mourning" for Anne?] Yellow has been a mourning colour at various times and places, cf. W.C. Hazlitt, Faith and Folklore, II, p. 425."

Alas, Hazlitt's work is not available online, but it and some of the other sources kb cited might clear up Henry's choice of mourning clothes.

Foose said...

I have found something pertinent in Maria Haward's "Dress at the Court of Henry VIII."

"The style of dress for mourning was traditional, consisting of a gown or mantle and a hood to cover the wearer's eyes." (This is for both men and women, apparently).

According to Henry VII's household ordinance on mourning, "English monarchs wore blue, which was the official colour of mourning." (!!!) "The use of blue distinguished the monarch from the rest of the court and household who were dressed in black. This indicated that the king was 'above' mourning." Hayward goes on to cite, however, numerous examples where the royal family wore black for mourning Queen Elizabeth, Henry's mother. She also points out that Henry VIII had very few blue clothes in his wardrobe, but a lot of black clothes. He did wear blue as chief mourner for the mother of the king of France, but that's the only mention. Perhaps this was a transitional time for mourning customs.

Hayward briefly addresses the yellow (Hall says Anne wore it, Chapuys said Henry wore it) mourning that was donned for Catherine of Aragon, but doesn't explain how it fits into the official customs.

Elizabeth M. said...

Apparently Mary Stuart caused quite a stir when she married her first husband, the Dauphin Francois, later King Francois II, because she insisted on wearing a white wedding dress, when white was the official color of mourning in France.

Elizabeth M. said...

I read that Henry and Anne wore yellow after Katherine of Aragon's death because yellow was the color of mourning in Spain. It was a token of respect, because no matter how henry and Anne felt about her personally, she was still a royal princess of Spain.

Foose said...

I've always been interested in this question of whether the yellow that Henry and/or Anne wore was indeed for mourning after the Spanish custom.

I've never been able to find any reference to yellow being a Spanish mourning color independently of biographies on the Tudors, and these usually just cite Hall's chronicle as the reference that it was "yellow for mourning."

Chapuys was the Imperial Ambassador; he was probably familiar with appropriate protocol for a royal person's death; if Henry was doing the decent thing after Spanish custom, he would have mentioned it. But what he says is:

"On the following day, Sunday, the King was clad all over in yellow, from top to toe, except the white feather he had in his bonnet, and the Little Bastard was conducted to mass with trumpets and other great triumphs. After dinner the King entered the room in which the ladies danced, and there did several things like one transported with joy."

Doesn't sound much like mourning. It could be that Chapuys, as a Savoyard, did not know the custom; but would Henry and Anne? There's a note over on "The Tudors" wiki that says yellow is the appropriate color for mourning the death of a Spanish daughter. But there's no citation, and I can't find independent confirmation on the Web anywhere.

Elizabeth M. said...

But can we take Chapuys without a grain of salt? he was blantantly hostile to Anne Boleyn, and did not exactly have the warm fuzzies for King Henry, either, due to the way Katherine of Aragon was treated.

Foose said...

Chapuys is prejudiced on behalf of Catherine and Mary, but the letter he writes regarding the yellow color is addressed to the Emperor through his Secretary of State Granvelle, who would both have known the correct protocol -- so there was no point in trying to deceive them.

According to the same letter (Jan 21, 1536), Henry also seems to have "ran some courses (couru quelques lances)" at Greenwich for the occasion; usually tournaments and jousts are reserved for celebrations.

I've been rummaging on Spanish and Spanish-language Websites this afternoon, googling with "luto" (mourning), "amarillo/a" (yellow) and "Catalina de Aragon." Again, it's frustrating -- very little to read. The modern sources are apparently lifted directly from the English Wikipedia entry, giving both interpretations; and the older sources are more nationalistic and biased, and only cite the yellow as a sign of the king's rejoicing. But there's no reference at all to any custom of yellow for mourning in Spain.

Perhaps Alison Weir, for her next book, could be persuaded to hire a Spanish researcher who could do the legwork on Spanish mourning rituals of the period and settle the question once and for all. It would be a real service to future historians.

Foose said...

White seems to be the liturgical color for Ascension Day. The king may not have been wearing "mourning" (as Hall states) at all but conforming to the religious calendar (Hayward does say that the king had to wear the appropriate colors on the various Church holy days.)

So Hall may have been wrong about the king wearing mourning or he was "covering up for him"; the 19th-century historian Gairdner criticized Hall for giving a consistently positive view of the king. White could be interpreted as a mourning color. Hall never says Henry wore yellow for Catherine's mourning, only Anne -- maybe he did this deliberately, because he knew the color was inappropriate and wanted to avoid presenting the king behaving badly. Moreover, if you go through his "Chronicle," the statements that Henry wore "whyte" for mourning on Ascension Day and that "Queen Anne wore yelowe for mournyng" appear to be the only two instances where Hall cites a specific color in connection with mourning. The rest of the time he just says "the king's mournyng apparell" or some other phrase in which a color is not at all indicated. This would suggest that the colors white and yellow were out of the ordinary as mourning costumes.

But it's still not conclusive, and I still think it would be worthwhile to hunt down the first instance in which "yellow was the Spanish color for mourning" was cited in a secondary source, to see exactly where it came from.

Anonymous said...

From Madrid to Purgatory: The Art and Craft of Dying in Sixteenth-Century Spain (Cambridge Studies in Early Modern History) by Carlos M. N. Eire has no references to yellow as a color of mourning that I could find. You may search the text yourself online, for free, through Amazon reader. There are multiple references to black as a mourning color, and references to the monarchy's regulation of mourning customs. I also searched for similar colors such as "gold" but still found nothing to support Hall's statement. I fear that Chapuys, however some may wish to dismiss him as a hostile source, may have some grounds for his hostility toward Henry in this message to the Emperor. Certainly, the Emperor, being of Spanish descent, would have been aware of the appropriate and respectful color of mourning.

CGJB said...

"El uso de amarillo a veces indicaba emociones coléricas" (The use of yellow sometimes indicated emotions of anger or bad temper. >